Well, that was a quick transition from ‘WTF?‘ to ‘Oh! Fun!’ …
I spent half an hour before work this morning practicing the leader movements for the beginner version, fixing one issue at a time. After about 20 minutes, everything felt right – and I even videoed myself to be sure it looked right. (No, you can’t. We’ve had this conversation before.)
Of course, without a follower, there was no reliable way to be sure, but it gave me sufficient confidence to brave the improver’s class tonight …
And it was good news. Diving straight into the improver’s version, what had looked hopelessly complicated the previous evening now all made perfect sense. Although it was a more complicated version than the one I’d practiced, they had enough in common that the solo practice had freed up enough attention dollar to cope with the sequence.
The improver’s version was: forward ochos, then on a left ocho, bend my knee to lower myself and my follower. Then walk backwards around the follower such that she pivots on her left foot while her right one brushes the floor behind her. Exiting is via a parada. This, likewise, was making sense tonight.
Then we did the back ocho version: dip when leading the back ocho to the right, then pivot the follower on her right foot while her left foot sweeps the floor in front of her. That exit simply requires ending my dip and pivoting my follower back in front of me.
The switch from front ocho to back ocho version was itself was a breakthrough for me. I often get confused when trying variations. The teacher will blandly say something like ‘Oh, and naturally you can reverse it like this’ and I’ll be ‘Whaaaa?’. But this time, it immediately made sense.
Of course, it was a new figure, so all the usual disclaimers apply: I made mistakes along the way, lost balance occasionally, and some examples were better than others. But all that’s to be expected. The bottom line was that it worked well a lot of the time.
The beginner’s class afterwards was actually doing the improver’s version, minus the parada at the end, so I got even more practice at it, which was great.
One drawback to learning a new figure in a group class: the follower knows her part, so it’s easy for her to anticipate. This means a leader can’t be confident they did actually lead the moves. But here, because it was entered from an ocho, I was able to randomly enter it on the first, third or fifth ocho to be sure I was really leading it.
Of course, it’s still an artificial situation. The follower knows what is coming, if not when. And when there are only two possibilities – either I’m leading another ocho or a planeo – then it’s still far from a perfect test of my lead. But, for what it’s worth, I did consistently pass the test.
Even when we’re just repeating the same figure for the duration of a song, I try to mix it up with some walking, and do my best to have the figure itself fit the music. That’s common in the improver’s class, but not in the beginner’s one. One of my followers said how lovely that felt, and I realised part of the reason it had worked so well was that she wasn’t anticipating at all: she waited for me to lead every single part of it. That meant I was able to really play with the music, applying some of what I’d been doing in the session with Bridgitta on Saturday and in my musicality homework since. That was really fun!
I’d long been wanting movements which would allow me to express more sweeping parts of the songs, and I was finding a planeo was – like the medio-giro – a really great one. If I can get this to milonga standard (by which I mean only that I don’t have to think about the mechanics while I’m doing it, and can lead it clearly), then that will really make a huge difference in my dance.
So, fully back in the tango high now! I’ll ask Mariano to work on my technique for this in Sunday’s lesson, which will be followed by a Tango Space workshop on ‘Balance, Dissociation & Giro.’ And before then there’s the Tango Garden sixth birthday party. Perhaps that will be time to risk a tanda or two with someone who isn’t from any of my classes …